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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Lung Foundation Australia and RACGP welcome legislation change in lung cancer, urge government action on roadblocks

Health Industry Hub | March 22, 2024 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: Each year, approximately 14,500 Australians are diagnosed with lung cancer, with a five-year survival rate of just 20%. The Albanese Government has broadened the scope of the National Cancer Screening Register to encompass lung cancer. This development has garnered praise from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and Lung Foundation Australia.

The National Cancer Screening Register Amendment Bill 2024 complements the National Targeted Lung Cancer Screening Program, the first new cancer screening program in nearly 20 years, scheduled to launch by July 2025. 

Mark Brooke, CEO of Lung Foundation Australia, told Health Industry Hub, “The implementation of the National Targeted Lung Cancer Screening Program is a momentous step forward for all Australians, and one Lung Foundation Australia has been tirelessly fighting for.”

The screening program, where eligible at-risk Australians between 50 – 70 years old will be able to access a low dose CT scan every two years, will save the lives of 12,000 Australians over the next ten years and can diagnose over 70% of cases at an earlier stage.

He added “The legislation change [National Cancer Screening Register Amendment Bill 2024] allowing the register to collect data for the new National Lung Cancer Screening Program, like it currently does for bowel and cervical screening, will be pivotal in improving early detection of lung cancer and patient outcomes by facilitating better monitoring, quality improvement and population health planning.”

Dr Nicole Higgins, President of RACGP, echoed Mr Brooke’s sentiments, emphasising the significance of expanding the register.

“This is a smart public health decision,” she affirmed, noting the alarming statistics that designate lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer-related mortality in Australia.

Dr Higgins emphasised the critical role of the register in prompting individuals to undergo timely screenings. She stressed, “Many people are busy in their lives and have other things front of mind, so prompting them to get tested or screened can be the difference between finding a cancer in time or a terminal diagnosis.”

However, Dr Higgins also highlighted areas for improvement, particularly in streamlining the register’s integration with existing clinical information systems in general practice settings.

“The government must urgently fix some problems concerning how the register integrates with existing general practice systems called clinical information systems, or CISs. There are issues relating to connectivity difficulties and delays, with the software only working sporadically, the last thing busy GPs and practice teams need.

“Also, the process for accessing the information we need during consults with patients is notoriously slow, limiting our ability to take full advantage of this register and do the best for our patients. So, we urge the Government to work with us and make sure the entire process is seamless and responsive for all GPs and practice teams across Australia,” she emphasised.

Dr Higgins also advocated for a similar approach in breast cancer screening.

“The government should strongly consider the next step of adding breast screening programs to the register. We understand that breast cancer screening programs are administered by the states and territories; however, let’s find a solution so that this deadly cancer is incorporated too,” she said.

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